Monday, 16 October 2017


Day 8 - "When It Was Moonlight..."  - I just can't resist the Ionicus style at the moment! Although there's more than a touch of MR James about this one too..

Day 9 - "Morning Stroll, Pnakotus, 400 Millions Years BC" -
This time I was having a go at doing something in a Gahan Wilson style, and hence opted for a little drawing of one of the Great Race of Yith who according to HP Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time lived on Earth in the millennia before man...

Day 10 - Nothing clever, just an undead fella! 

Day 11 - "Vincent in Blue"

Day 12 - "Delvers in the Dark" - a little homage to old school RPG art

Day 13 - "He seemed to be a tall thin man — or was it by any chance a woman?— at least, it was someone who covered his or her head with some kind of drapery before going to bed, and, he thought, must be possessed of a red lamp-shade — and the lamp must be flickering very much..." from Number 13 by MR James

Day 14  - The Inhabitant of the Lake - a pen and water colour inspired by the writings of Ramsey Campbell 

Day 15 - The Rose Garden 

"It was not a mask. It was a face — large, smooth, and pink. She remembers the minute drops of perspiration which were starting from its forehead: she remembers how the jaws were clean-shaven and the eyes shut. She remembers also, and with an accuracy which makes the thought intolerable to her, how the mouth was open and a single tooth appeared below the upper lip. As she looked the face receded into the darkness of the bush..." from The Rose Garden by MR James

Saturday, 14 October 2017

HYPNOGORIA 73 - Recent Horror Round-up Part 2

Continuing our reviews of some recent horror movies, Mr Jim Moon takes a look at pleasure. In this show we review An Unkindness of Ravens, The Blackcoat's Daughter (AKA February), Get Out, and A Monster Calls. Once again all reviews are spoiler-free!

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Friday, 13 October 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Black Lady of Bradley Woods Part IV

Over the past few weeks, we have been exploring the assorted eerie tales that cluster around the Black Lady of Bradley Woods. This ghost has long been known the local area, however as we have seen in our little investigations, the stories surrounding this particular haunting are not only still being told but are also still evolving. Now largely this is occurring in the usual way for folklore - that is to say that the details of a story change as the tale is retold over the years, and occasionally new elements and additions find their way into the fabric of the legend too. 

Now in the case of the Black Lady of Bradley Woods, tales of her hauntings have spread into a wider arena. For these days, her legend is recounted not just in the local area but across the world thanks the dubious magic of the internet. Hence while the Black Lady isn't the only ghost in the region, she is certainly well on her way to becoming the most famous. She has her own Wikipedia entry, appears in countless online catalogues of local spooks, and perhaps most significantly of all, she has entered the strange worlds of Creepypasta. And if you are unfamiliar with with Creepypasta, allow me to explain... 

While you may well be forgiven that it is some sort of off-beat cookery site, Creepypasta is a term, and part of the name of several websites, for short macabre tales shared online. Effectively creepypastas are the digital equivalent of all those old campfire stories and playground shockers that have been passed around orally by generations of kids. The term itself derives from a corruption of "copy and paste", a nod to how such creepy tales originally began circulating on the internet, as chunks of text copied and pasted from emails and bulletin boards. While some purists might wish to dismiss creepypastas as something separate and different from traditional folklore, to my mind if they are not an emerging modern form of folklore, they are at least closely related. For example, in our previous explorations we have seen what I have tentatively termed 'weblore' shaping the current versions of the Black lady legend. And the fact that she is also now haunting the online realm of creepypasta is also having an effect on the shape of her stories. 

Now then, the Black Lady makes an appearance on the major sites for creepypasta, the Creepypasta Wiki and her tale appears on this page here. Now this article retells the usual version of the Black Lady's origin, however at the close of the piece, it makes this addition - 
Legend has it that her ghost still wanders the woods today, and if anyone is brave enough to walk into the woods on new year’s day and shout "Black lady, black lady, I’ve stolen your baby!" three times, the woman shall appear and confront them.
Anyhow, the interesting thing here is the new addition to the story, the claim that you can summon up the Black Lady. And in other write-ups of the Black Lady stories we have an additional caveat that states that it is thought this summoning appears to be a relatively recent addition to the mythos. 

Now firstly we should note that such simple rites to call up a local ghost, a witch or even the Devil Himself, are common in local folklore. For example, as I have previously mentioned in these columns, a local ghost I'm familiar with, the Grey Lady Lady of Aycliffe Village, can be called up by walking round St Andrew's Church at midnight. And there are many more such tales in regional folklore. Common elements involve going to a certain place, usually on a certain day, or at a certain time, and either reciting something and/or performing some simple action - knocking on doors or walking so many times around an area are common examples of this. 

Folklorists have called these sort of informal folk rites "legend tripping". They occur all over the world and are perennially popular with teenagers. These rites share much in common with other spooky activities that kids everywhere practice, that I'm sure you are all familiar with, such as messing about with ouija boards at sleep-overs or summoning Bloody Mary. Legend tripping taps into that same spirit of daring each other to do something that will scare the pants of you, however it is specifically tied to a certain place which has a local folklore story attached to it. In some ways, you can see legend tripping as a way of bringing a legend to life, or as a kind of live action roleplay of a campfire tale (or these days a creepypasta). 

Now in the case of the Black Lady summoning incantation, it is claimed that this is a recent addition to the legend, and given its appearance in a creepypasta version of the Black Lady story, it would be easy to assume that this summoning is indeed a new addition to the lore. But I did wonder about that. For while the term "legend tripping" was only relatively recently coined by folklorists, and hence gained a lot of attention recently,  the actual phenomena has been going on for decades. 

For example, the humorist Odgen Nash wrote a terrifying ghost story called The Three Ds which appeared in 1948 in Harpers Bazaar, which tells of a girl at a Massachusetts boarding school who is dared to do the local legend trip to the grave of one Elizabeth Catspaugh, a witch hanged in Salem. Going further back into the realm of fiction, the tale Wailing Well by MR James can be read as a legend trip going horribly wrong - in this story a group of Scouts out camping (a traditional place for telling of eerie tales of course) are warned from going into a certain patch of woods. One boy decides to test the truth of the legend, and needless to say as this is a James story, pays dearly for it. Delving back even further into literature, there are countless ghost stories from the Victorian era that have as their central premise someone going to stay in a supposed haunted house as a wager or a dare. 

So then, is the summoning of the Black Lady really a recent addition, or is it a case of this aspect of legend being only recently recorded? Next time, we'll attempt to trace this element of the story back to its roots.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


Hello dear fiends and welcome once again to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Over the last few weeks we've had the toy box out and have been looking at a celebrated range of diecast vehicles that dominated birthday and Christmas lists for a good half decade. First appearing in 1977, the Adventure 2000 range from Matchbox saw the veteran maker of toy cars venture into futuristic realms to deliver a host of exciting SF vehicles. As we have discovered in previous weeks, Adventure 2000 seemingly owed a debt to the Land Master from the movie Damnation Alley (1977), which was based on the novel of the same name by Roger Zelazny.  The flagship vehicle of the range, the Raider Command would go on to appear in the pages of legendary comic 2000 AD as Judge Dredd's wheels in the epic saga of The Cursed Earth, which coincidentally owed a huge debt to Zelazny's book too.  

Now whenever there's a hot new toy flying off the shelves, it doesn't take long for competing firms to start designing rival products to get themselves a slice of the action. Now in the world of diecast metal cars, Matchbox had an equally venerable competitor in the shape of Corgi, who had been making toy vehicles since the 1930s. Now since the 1960s, Corgi had had a winning hand in the shape of several tie-in vehicles, most notably having the license to make toy versions of the Batmobile from the Adam West Batman series, and the rights to make miniature version of James Bond's cars. Indeed for decades the Corgi versions of the Aston Martin DB5 and the Batmobile were bestsellers, captivating generations of kids who hadn't even been born when these iconic vehicles first hit the screen. 

Therefore they were somewhat miffed when Matchbox started stealing their thunder with the Adventure 2000 line, a range that was delivering exciting wholly original fantastic vehicles, complete with the kind of special features, such as firing rockers and pop-out weapons, that made the Bond and Bat cars such perennial winners. Hence in 1979, Corgi launched a rival range to compete with these usurpers in the world of fantastical vehicles - the X-ploratrons

Like Adventure 2000, this was a line of four vehicles featuring all new designs and exciting special features. And like their Matchbox rivals, the X-ploratrons came complete with their own back story too. According to the marketing blurb, "in a fictitious disaster-wrecked world of the 21st century, the elements rebel against man!". Now I must pause here and remark that I was so relieved they pointed out that this was a fictitious future and not an actual accurate prophecy or something! Blimey, you had me worried for a moment there Corgi!

And for that matter how exactly do elements rebel? Are they rebelling against something in particular or is it just a Marlon Brando style "whatcha got?" deal? We will probably never know! Anyhow, come and meet the quartet of super-duper vehicles that had "their own individual role to play in the battle against disaster from within and without the planet!" 

First up was the X-1 Rocketron (D2023) - a six wheeled tracked vehicle that "traversed icy wastes locating disasters with its sensorscope and fires solar powered rockets". See, destructive and green at the same time! Although quite what disasters could be averted by rocket bombardment the adverts weren't entirely clear. Deadly avalanches? Stroppy icebergs? No one was entirely sure to be honest. However the toy itself came with a real, working compass fitted inside the cockpit, and a rear mounted missile launcher to strike terror into the hearts of younger siblings and family pets. 

Next up was the X-2 Lasertron (D2024) - apparently in the dangerous future of the X-ploratrons "dramatic and sudden changes in the arid belt cause hurricanes and sandstorms threatening to engulf continents" and this chunky six wheeler had the job of dealing with those. And how does one truck sort out such extreme weather? Well, solar powered lasers allegedly! And hence it came equipped with a lenticular prismatic disc to turn the power of the sun into laser death! Sadly however in real life the prismatic disc didn't generate lethal beams of energy, but just changed colour from yellow to black. For me, easily the weakest of the X-ploratrons, for despite looking and sounding cool, the play value of a shiny sticker was a bit limited. 

Offering far more exciting play in my humble opinion was the X-3 Magnetron (D2025) - a four wheeler designed to tackle the menace of meteorite bombardment. Although the toy didn't feature a working rocket that was depicted in the art and adverts, it did come with a moveable arm fitted with a magnet and a sliding roof compartment to store samples. Well, stray paperclips and orphan screws and nails at least. But hey, a magnet on a robotic looking arm! And magnets were cool! 

Finally there was the X-4 Scannertron (D2022), an allegedly amphibious craft that "scoured swamps" for "fissures which swamp cities with boiling mud and debris". I say "allegedly amphibious" because taking this one into the bath with you was, in reality, a recipe of peeling off decal,s and eventually, rust. But the idea of a fighting force for multiple terrains was appreciated. Anyhow, to tackles these aforementioned tectonic threats, the Scannertron came with moving jungle cutters at the front and rear, a magnifying lens mounted in the middle of the craft and a self righting cockpit. 

Now I think it is fair to say that the X-ploratrons were something of a mixed bag. For while the Magnetron has a magnet to play with, and the Scannerton had cutting blades and a magnifying glass to unwittingly start forest fires with, the Rocketron's missile was a bit weedy and the novelty of the  Laserton's shiny disco array would wear off before you got it out of the packet. However in fairness, not every model in the Adventure 2000 range was as exciting as the Raider Command, and so, in terms of exciting features I think the two ranges more or less balance each other out. 

However I think Corgi didn't quite get their designs for their future fighting force to look quite as cool as Matchbox's. Adventure 2000's designs had a pleasingly realistic feel to them, whereas the X-ploratrons seem a bit more clunky and chunky, and with their bright, almost primary, colours look more toy-like and therefore to a certain section of their market, babyish in comparison. But on the plus side, Corgi had clearly clocked the Matchbox-2000 AD link-up, for the box art for their rival range featured gorgeous visuals from Carlos Ezquerra, the legendary comics artist responsible for classic 2000 AD strips such as Strontium Dog and Fiends of the Eastern Front, but more importantly, was the co-creator of Judge Dredd himself. 

Apparently there were tentative plans to expand the range, and pictures of a prototype for a fifth vehicle do exist. Photos in The Great Book of Corgi 1956-1983 (1999) shows a flatbed launcher style truck, equipped a large ICBM - I'd guess this would have been dubbed Missiletron or similar. But sadly the X-ploratrons' mission was seemingly doomed to fail, for the range remained a quartet, and worse, the models were only in the shops for a year before being consigned to the toybox of history.

However despite burning briefly, it would seem the X-ploratrons did burn bright, for they are just as collectable as their Adventure 2000 counterparts, and command very similar prices these days. And fortunately the weather in the 21st century is still behaving itself... But for how long? Perhaps the X-ploratrons' day will come at last!

Sunday, 8 October 2017


Hello folks! This year I thought I would have a bash at the annual artistic malarky that is #inktober! I've meant to for a couple of years now, but as October is something of a busy month around here at the Great Library of Dreams I usually end up forgetting. However this year, I did remember, and so then here is the first week's worth of doodles and sketches! 

Day 1 - a little piece inspired by The Tractate Middoth by MR James

Day 2 - a little sketch I entitled "The Witch At The End of Your Bed" 

Day 3 "Late Night by the Fireside" - Thought I'd have a bash at a spooky scene like the ones Ionicus used to do for the covers of ghost stories for William Kimber books. You can see a fine selection of Ionicus cover over here at The Common Swings. On reflection I think this one came out more like Roger Hargreaves, but never mind! 

Day 4 - See the little goblins...

Day 5 "Hallowtide at Exham" - Another attempt at something in an Ionicus/Kimber style! This one was getting closer to what I wanted, and very much a homage to the Ionicus cover for Halloween Hauntings edited by the late great Peter Haining

Day 6 "Tiptoe Through the Tombstones" - another somewhat Ionicus inspired piece, with a touch of Alfred Bestall too

Day 7 - Another piece inspired by MR James - 
"The whispering in my house was more persistent tonight. I seemed not to be rid of it in my room. I have not noticed this before. A nervous man, which I am not, and hope I am not becoming, would have been much annoyed, if not alarmed, by it..." 

from The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral by MR James 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

HYPNOGORIA 72 - Recent Horror Round-up Part 1

October is here and Hallowe'en is not far away. So then, in the first of a two part offering, Mr Jim Moon takes a look at some recent horror movies for your autumnal viewing pleasure. In this show we review Prevenge, The Evil Within, The Void and The Girl With All the Gifts. Note - all these reviews are spoiler-free!

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Friday, 6 October 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Black Lady of Bradley Woods Part III

Over the past few weeks we have been discussing aspects of one particular ghost story, the tale of the Black Lady who allegedly haunts Bradley Woods in Grimsby. Now then, as we are concerned with this haunting as folklore, whether this particular spectre exists or not is an issue - for what we have been examining is how the stories about the Black Lady have changed over the years. Now given that folklore exists first and foremost as an oral tradition, and therefore it is impossible to date exactly when the eerie tale of the Black Lady first appeared. However certainly the story of the haunting and the tragic tale of its origin have been told in the local area throughout the 20th century and continue to this day. And last week we saw how in the 21st century, the story is still changing, now thanks to the tale being circulated on the internet, as weblore if you will.

It is the fact that this eerie story is still actually evolving that makes the tale of the Black Lady so intriguing. For in folklore we can roughly divide any old tales into two categories. Firstly there is what I would term 'preserved lore'. These are stories and legends that have been written down and recorded, but now more or less just exists as retellings of the exact same tale. Or to put it another way a standard version now exists, and it is a story that is read about in books rather than still being told by people. On the other hand however, we have the second tentative category of what I'd would dub 'living lore'. These items of folklore I would define as a local story that is not only still being told as part of a surviving oral tradition, but is also still being changed and added to as the years go by.

In the case of the Black Lady, we have clearly a more or less standard version of the story - the sad tale of her origin - that has been widely recorded. However, as we saw last week, when we investigated claims that she also haunts/or had haunted the nearby Nunthorpe estate, we discovered this was a somewhat recent addition to the legend, indicating that her tale is still being embroidered through retellings. Now this new element to the story appears to be a simple case of mistaken identity, with two separate but relatively nearby hauntings becoming confused. But while this might be just an  error, it does demonstrate that the story is very much still alive. And what is more, there are further other elements in the lore of the Black Lady that appear to be recent additions too.

Traditionally the Black Lady is seen walking within Bradley Woods, or spotted near its edges. However while researching the legend, as well as finding several sightings of her walking in the woods being made by passing motorists, I also discovered that it is claimed that sometimes she will cross the road, causing passing cars to slow down before she melts away. Furthermore in my devling in the Bradley Woods stories, I discovered a first-hand account, dating from the 1960s, of a Black Lady encounter in which the car actually struck the soon-to-vanish figure with an audible bump.

Of course, if you are at all familiar with folkloric ghost stories, these accounts of the ghost causing phantom accidents will undoubtedly sound very familiar. And this is because there are many tales of local hauntings which have the spectre walking out in front of a car. In fact, this ghostly behaviour is so common it appears to be a modern variation of the well-known Vanishing Hitchhiker story and has been been "the Spectral Jaywalker". Many examples of it, and its elder sibling tradition, are detailed on Sean Tudor's excellent site Road Ghosts.

Quite how such tales end up being so common, occurring not just all over the British Isles but all over the world, is a question folklorists and researchers are still investigating. However in the case of the Black Lady, I did find some interesting possible clues to how they spread. In the lively comments section on local historian Rod Collins' article on the Black Lady, where I found the 1960s jaywalking report mentioned above, I came across several other mentions of the Black Lady haunting the road. Interestingly however, I also found references to what appears to be a sub-tradition that alleges that instead of a figure, mysterious lights are the cause of these phantom near-misses.

Now one plausible explanation for the spectral jaywalker phenomena is that they are optical illusions. The theory goes that thanks the bends in the road, direction of travel, and other natural effects of the local landscape on both light levels and visibility, some places generate an illusion or impression of a shape or a figure on the road. It is a well established fact that rapid changes between light and darkness can produce visual distortions - photically induced hallucinations are a good example of this - and it is thought natural features on specific stretches of road such as sunlight shining through trees can produce subtle strobing effects that generate these illusions. So then, given that many spectral jaywalkers are described as pale figures - often ladies in white - or as in the case of the Bradley Woods haunting, patches of light or mist, this may well be the scientific explanation for a real phenomena that underlies the folklore.

Sadly I've not been able to trace much further detail on these particular tales of hauntings on the Bradley Road, but it would seem that this section of road is a common spot for sightings of the Black Lady. But given that one commenter on the Rod Collins article mentions his father recounting a tale of a vanishing car on the Bradley Woods road, one cannot help but wonder if these tales of lights on the road were perhaps originally a separate road ghost story. As we saw last week, the Black Lady legend appears to have absorbed (or at least to be in the process of absorbing) a separate tale of a hooded figure that haunted Nunthorpe in 1980s, and therefore I suspect the haunting at Bradley Road may well have been unrelated to the Black Lady at first, but is now becoming part of her folklore.

I suspect this is often the case where one story is more active than others. And have no doubt the tale of the Black Lady is still very active - it is indeed living lore. For her eerie story continues to be told in the local area, and now her fame is spreading online too. Next time, we will examine a further example of the Black Lady legend becoming more elaborate in recent years, one that sees the Black Lady incorporating another sub genre of folklore...

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT #27 - To the Planet Zeto and Beyond!

Welcome once again to the 'Orribe 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Please step inside, but be careful! We've got the toy box out again and the floor is covered with little diecast metal cars at the moment! Now then, over the last few weeks we have been chatting about the Matchbox Adventure 2000 range, and this time, as you might have guessed from the traffic jam/war zone on the carpet, we're continuing the tale of these exciting little SF vehicles

Now Matchbox had been making toy cars and trucks since roughly the pre-Cambrian Era... Or 1953 at least. They had made pocket-sized, and indeed pocket-money priced, versions of all kinds of automobiles, and had even branched out into ships, planes and tanks. However Adventure 2000 saw the venerable toy makers making a bold new foray into a whole new genre, heading into the world of SF, and jolly exciting it was too. First  released in 1977, the initial range comprised of the K-2001 Raider Command (super cool all singing, all dancing all killing, all terrain vehicle), K-2002 Flight Hunter (flying space sports car), and the K-2003 Crusader (laser tank thingamajig). Coming complete with little plastic figures of space soldiers, this range were a huge hit for Matchbox, and as we saw last time, even took a starring role in a classic Judge Dredd comic.

As it was soon clear that they had a winner on their hands, naturally Matchbox were keen to expand the range, and therefore created a second wave of new vehicles for the Adventure 2000 line in 1978. The first addition was the K-2004 Rocket Striker, another very cool looking armoured truck with missiles mounted in a roof compartment. Nowthis was a nice looking vehicle, and a very neat to the range to be sure, fitting in nicely with its metal brethren. However in fact, it was a little bit of cheat, for this model hadn't been especially designed for the range. In fact, the same model had been doing the rounds since 1976 as the K-111 Missile Launcher in the Matchbox Battle Kings series - a range dedicated to modern military hardware. Basically the only change was that now the vehicle was a more olive shade of green and had the Adventure 2000 decals on it. But that said, it did fit in well, and you can never have too many missile firing vehicles, can you? 

However Matchbox didn't stop there. For this new addition to the range was also available in a bumper pack with two other smaller vehicles. This was the K-2005 Command Force set, which comprised of the Rocket Striker plus the three smaller craft. These were the Rescue Hover Craft, the Planet Scout, and the Cosmobile. Now actually all of these three smaller craft had also previously appeared in different colours in earlier Matchbox ranges too. The Rescue Hover Craft was originally the plain old Hovercraft in the 1976 Matchbox 75 range, while the Planet Scout and Cosmobile had appeared in funkier paintjobs in the 1-75 range in, you guessed it, 1975. Plus this pair had also moonlighting in the Super Kings range since 1978 too.

The full 1978 line-up

Also around this time, for probably the usual no good reason, some versions of the range came out with magenta tinted windscreens rather than the typical orange. As you might expect, these are somewhat rarer and hence go for larger prices if you're thinking of starting to collect this range. However there were more radical changes to come!  In 1979/1980 the brief flavour blurb that outlined a sketchy backstory for the range was changed from some vague talk about a future war to this - “The interplanetary commission prepares for an expedition to planet ZETO”!

And what did this mean for the range? Well, primarily it meant that the militaristic olive livery that had served the range so well since 1977 was now ditched in favour of a presumable more interplanetary deep metallic blue. Again this latest and indeed, last iteration of the range is considerably harder to find these days. This last wave of the Adventure 2000 range also added a final new vehicle which is one of the rarest of all these Matchbox models - the K-2006 Shuttle Launcher.

Now this last entry in the range was largely very similar to the K-2003 Crusader, however instead of a rotating laser turret, this half tracked behemoth sported a MASSIVE red plastic launcher on the the top. However this didn't fire piddly little Nemesis rockets like the Raider Command, but a HUGE round flying saucer! And of course, because of the highly breakable nature of the plastic launcher coupled with the tendency of flying saucers to get lost under sofas or in gardens, it is now very rare to find one of these babies intact out there in the wilds of either Planet Zeto or the even more hazardous environment of Ebay!

Sadly it seems the range was retired around 1982, but for a good half decade kids had had the hardware to wage ferocious future wars, skirmish with ravening muties, and explore strange new worlds with these wonderful models. Obviously thanks to its appearance in 2000 AD, the Raider Command is highly prized by Dredd fans, but all these unofficial die-cast progeny of the Landmaster are very appealing to collectors. They were so popular that they even inspired a rival range from competitors Corgi... but that is a tale for another day!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

HYPNOGORIA 71 - Scarred For Life

Do you remember the '70s? Strange decade wasn't it? Post apocalyptic dramas, weird crime fighters, spooky SF shows, and some genuinely terrifying ghost stories... And that was just the children's television! Come take a trip back to that very disturbing decade where terror and horror lurked everywhere from TV to comics to board games and even snack foods! Relive those golden days with Mr Jim Moon as we take an in-depth look at Scarred For Life Volume 1 by Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence, a marvellous tome that both catalogues and celebrate that was weird and unsettling in the 1970s!

Get your own copy of Scarred For Life Volume 1 here! 


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Thursday, 28 September 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Black Lady of Bradley Woods Part II

Last week we told the eerie and tragic tale of the Black Lady of Bradley Woods. However there is another story attached to this particular ghost which also delves into her origins to a lesser degree. And while the legend we recounted last week bears all the hallmarks of a traditional ghost story from local folklore, this supplement to the main legend,  I suspect is of far more modern vintage.

If you look up the legend of the Black Lady, you will soon find an oft-repeated assertion that the Black Lady was a nun. Now at first glance this appears to make a lot of sense, for British folklore is chock full of phantom nuns and spectral monks. However, quite clearly her origin tale make no mention of her being a nun at all. Now in the realm of folklore, it is not uncommon to find a ghost or spirit to have several different origin stories and this is very true in cases such as this one where the entity has no definite name.

However there are some factors here that raises some suspicion. Firstly, so far as I can tell, no one has ever described her as sporting the usual nun's wimple and habit. And secondly, the nearest convent, and indeed the nearest sites of former convents even, are actually several miles away. Now having done a fair bit of digging into the assorted accounts of the legend,  I am beginning to suspect that what we will call "the nun theory" isn't so much folklore but something I have started to think of as weblore. And what is weblore? Well, as any reader in any field will tell you, the major problem with researching virtually anything online is discovering endless pages featuring the same information copied either in whole or in part from one single source. The most common example of this are the hundreds of pages that simply copy and paste entries from somewhere like Wikipedia. Additionally there are an equal number of sites that don't copy and paste wholesale, but simply paraphrase of the text, allowing further inaccuracies and distortions to creep in. Hence any errors from an original source are very quickly reproduced, and the rogue factoid becomes part of the popular wisdom on the subject.

Of course there is a similarity here with the traditional way folklore is transmitted, with folks repeating the same stories time and time and again, and sometimes adding or omitting various details, either deliberately embellishing the tale or just by making mistakes. However the line I would draw between actual folklore and it's modern relation weblore, is that the former is done through an oral tradition or by literature, and the process is slow and gradual. Whereas weblore evolves rapidly from the mechanical means of copying and pasting, with variations creeping in from repeated mistakes or poor copy editing, rather than the tale organically changing through being retold through different tellers.

Now then, if you look up the legend of the Black Lady, you can find many sites that simple repeat or rephrase the Wikipedia entry on this ghost. And the text on the original page states that "One theory that has been put forward is that the Black Lady is the ghost of a nun", and unsurprisingly this factoid has become part of the weblore of the Black Lady. However if you look up the reference Wikipedia gives for the nun theory in the page's footnotes, it points to a report in the Grimsby Telegraph, and this newspaper article actually says something a little bit different.

To begin with, the newspaper report is detailing an eerie photograph that allegedly may show the famous local phantom. Apparently while taking pictures of her cousin at night in Bradley Woods, photographer Kirsty Richie discovered strange shapes appearing in the shots. Naturally this was enough for the local paper to happily recounts the legend, and the piece remarks -
One theory is that she is the ghost of a nun, and was also said to appear in Nunsthorpe before moving to Bradley.
So then, I decided to dig a little deeper, and began looking for tales of ghostly nuns in the nearby Nunsthorpe. Now this western area of Grimsby is only a few miles away from Bradley Woods, and was once the site of the Priory of St Leonard. And yes, this religious institution was once home to nuns - and for more information on it I would direct the interested reader to local historian Rod Collins's page on it.

However the priory was closed down by Henry VIII in 1539, and it then became Nuns Farm. In 1935, this was demolished and eventually in the 1920s, the land was acquired by the local council and new houses were built on the site. Unsurprisingly given the area's long and rich history, I did find some reports of ghosts roaming this new housing estate, but I couldn't find any tales of a spectral nun being spotted. However I did find several mentions of a hooded man being seen, and in fact the case was featured in the popular TV series Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers. In episode 5, entitled  "Ghosts, Apparitions and Haunted Houses", which first aired on 1st May 1985, we got the following report of the hooded man -

Now I rather suspect that these eerie tales of a hooded figure are the real origin of the alleged nun ghost. I would guess that these reports of a hooded ghost, and in fact most likely this 1980s TV report on the sightings, were misremembered, and hence the hooded spectre ended up changing sex and becoming a nun. With that muddle in place, it is a short step for someone to theories that these two ghosts dressed in black and appearing relatively close together were one and the same. And so a hooded figure becoming conflated with the Black Lady.

Furthermore from my researches it is quite clear that the stories of the Black Lady haunting Bradley Woods date back well before the reports of a hooded figure in Nunsthorpe. To turn once more to local historian Rod Collins, in the lively comment section on his article on the Black Lady there is no shortage of folks recounting their own tales of the Black Lady, with several locals recalling hearing the stories as children in decades before the era of ZX Spectrums and Rubik's Cubes. Quite clearly Bradley Woods have had a spooky reputation for a considerable amount of time...

As for the photograph in the report (which is archived here), I have reproduced it above alongside a version where I adjusted the brightness levels to better see what is going on. To my eyes, I would guess the strange shapes are possibly the result of some kind of reflection, but given the low quality of the picture I was working with it is hard to be certain what is causing the spooky looking shapes. However given the nebulous nature of the shapes, I am strongly inclined to rule out a deliberate fraud, as I suspect that a deliberate hoax would produce something resembling a typical pop culture ghost than merely some mysterious patterns.

But the photograph does actually prove something about the Black Lady of Bradley Woods. For while the above snap may well fall short of providing concrete evidence for the existence of ghosts, it is absolutely rock solid proof that the story of the Black Lady is alive and well in the 20th century. And next week we will look at how the tale of this spectre is very much still a living legend. 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

THE 'ORRIBLE 'OUSE OF TERRIBLE OLD TAT #26 - This is Mutie Country!

Welcome once again dear fiends to the 'Orribe 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! That's it, step inside! The Geiger counter by the door is purely a precautionary measure I assure you! We don't want any of the Brotherhood or Slay Riders sneaking in do we now? Anyhow, today we are heading out once again into the irritated badlands of late 20th century tat, to continue the strange saga that is the history of the Landmaster. 

So then, to briefly recap, in the late '60s SF scribe Roger Zelazny wrote a tale of a violent anti-hero, Hell Tanner, who must pilot an armoured vehicle on a desperate mission to ferry a plague vaccine from California to Boston through a now familiar radioactive wasteland. That story was Damnation Alley, and around a decade later in 1977, it was turned into a rather cheesy SF movie of the same name. But while the film ended up being something of a mess, one positive to emerge from its own creative irradiated wasteland was that they did design a very cool screen version of Hell Tanner's "car", and this iconic vehicle was dubbed the Landmaster.

Now Damnation Alley, if you'll pardon the pun, tanked at the box office, so back in the day there was never any official toy version of the Landmaster. However as we saw last week, in the same year Matchbox released a range of three futuristic vehicles called Adventure 2000, and two of them, the Crusader and the Raider Command, seemed to owe for than a little to the Landmaster. Spooky eh? But the following year, 1978, something even stranger happened.

In the spring of 1977, IPC magazines launched a new weekly SF comic called 2000 AD. While initially the lead strip was a revamped version of legendary British comics hero Dan Dare, the veteran spacer was soon usurped by a new breakaway star who appeared in Prog #002 - Judge Dredd. Now as a future cop in a post nuclear war world, policing the mean streets of Mega City 1, Dredd quickly became the new comic's most popular strip, and would heavily influence both Mad Max and Robocop. At first, each week saw Dredd tackling some different bizarre future crime, but as the strip's popularity rose, longer stories started to appear, with the first major Dredd serial being a seven episode tale detailing a rebellion by the cities' droids, an event in Mega City history now known as the Robot Wars.

However roughly a year and a half into the 2000 AD's life, the comic's alien editor, known to us Earthlets as the Mighty Tharg, decided on an even bolder step - a Dredd mega-epic, a serial tale that would run for a whopping 24 weeks! Of course such a big story needed an equally big plot, and hence legendary writer Pat Mills devised a tale that would take us beyond Mega City 1; a story that would not only explore the wider world of Dredd's universe, but also detail some of its previously unrevealed history. And what was the epic plot line to accomplish these lofty aims? Well, stop me if you've heard this one before...

A lethal plague has broken out in Mega City 2, the giant metropolis on the West Coast of America. Mega City 1, which is occupies the Eastern seaboard of the former USA, has come up with a vaccine to send over to its beleaguered sister city. However between the two cities is the Cursed Earth, a huge irradiated wasteland full of monsters and mutants. Thanks to extreme weather flying over the Cursed Earth is impossible, and hence a land mission is set up. Naturally the man to undertake this dangerous mercy mission is Judge Dredd. However to accompany him, Dredd enlists a criminal biker called Spikes Harvey Rotten, with the offer of a free pardon. And so they set off to deliver the vaccine in a specially armoured vehicle, the Land  Raider...

Quite why Zelazny never sued them, I really don't know. However in fairness, although the central concepts are very similar, the actual events of in the stories are far different. Dredd's epic, known as The Cursed Earth, sees the judge encountering psychics, mutants, robot vampires, aliens, and war droids. As an aside, there's even a sequence where Dredd tangles with some dinosaurs that were scientifically resurrected by a process similar to cloning for a future theme park! Yes, Pat Mills also ripped of Jurassic Park, but very cleverly avoided being sued by doing it a whole 12 years before Michael Crichton wrote the original novel. Anyhow...

The Cursed Earth ran from May to October in 1978 (2000 AD progs #61 to #85 fact fans) and quickly became a classic of British comics. And if you want to hear more about it, I guested on this episode of the Mega City Book Club Podcast to discuss it.

However, if there weren't already enough weird links clustering around this mega epic, there was another exciting twist to this saga. For excited readers soon spotted instantly that the Land Raider, seen below being put through its paces, was in fact identical to Matchbox's Raider Command. And if you look at the dialogue in the pages reproduced below, you'll notice that they even have the same serial number - K-2001. 
Now here is where it gets interesting, for as yet no one is quite knows exactly how this particular toy ended up in the pages of 2000 AD. Matchbox itself made no particular fuss about it, and there was no official announcement in the comic at the time either, which could suggest the Raider Command was unofficially borrowed at first. Not that us kids cared of course - we were just too excited about either a) being able to own a Judge Dredd related vehicle, or b) suddenly seeing a favourite toy appearing in 2000 AD. Plus we learned that the armoured rear module was called the Killdozer! 

But however the deal came about - for surely there must have been a deal - a few weeks into The Cursed Earth running in 2000 AD, in Progs #80 and #81 to be exact, our beloved alien editor, Tharg the Mighty acknowledged that a very cool Matchbox toy was appearing in the strip. And what was more, the Mighty One was launching a competition that could win you the entire Adventure 2000 range! Running over two weeks, and involving a bit of code breaking, this competition saw 60, yes 60 complete sets of the Adventure 2000 range up for grabs! 
So then, given that most kids were likely to be either too lazy to enter, or too dense to crack the code (and the answer was... work it out for yourself grennix!), a huge 60 sets meant you had better odds than usual at winning something! As it was, I didn't enter this competition myself as I already had the Raider Command and the Flight Hunter. Ironically though, in the end I never did manage to get the Crusader and complete the set. But still, I had many happy hours recreating scenes from The Cursed Earth with the two I did have.

However even if you had snagged one of the 60 sets offered by Tharg, the fact was your new collection of die-cast future vehicles wasn't going to stay compete for long. For as you can imagine Adventure 2000 was a highly popular range, and therefore it wasn't long before Matchbox brought out some new additions to it. But that dear friends is a tale for next time...